GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After two convincing wins, the Dallas Cowboys looked invincible.
Then Week 3 happened.
The Cowboys suffered a surprising 28-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in which the suffocating defense did not record a takeaway and gave up 180 rushing yards in the first half, the offense scored just one touchdown in five red zone trips, while playing without three starting offensive linemen, and the team committed 16 penalties, 13 that were accepted.
"Y'all put us on top of the world," quarterback Dak Prescott said. "We knew who we are. And in that same sense, I'm sure the media got what they wanted. For us, there hasn't been but one undefeated team in this league ever. Ever. So, yeah, it sucks. It's humbling, but to say it's a wake-up call, we knew we had a lot of adversity -- we just didn't get it done."
With the loss, the Cowboys missed out on their first 3-0 start since 2019, and they did something their NFC rivals, the Washington Commanders and New York Giants, did not do: lose to the Cardinals. The Cowboys have now lost seven of their past eight matchups against the Cardinals.
The Cowboys entered Sunday with 40-0 and 30-10 wins against the Giants and New York Jets. The defense had 10 sacks and seven takeaways. The offense was good enough, though was poor in the red zone against the Jets, as well.
The Cardinals had Joshua Dobbs at quarterback. And he completed 17 of 21 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals ran for 222 yards and had seven plays of at least 20 yards.
"Feeling great about ourselves, but it's the NFL: It's Not For Long," defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. "So definitely put that feeling behind us. We got punched in the mouth tonight, but it's all about us. And it's really, I don't feel like they did anything special. I feel like through the pre-snap penalties and the flags after the plays, we actually beat ourselves."
The Cowboys were without four starters. Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered in Thursday's practice. All-Pro right guard Zack Martin did not play because of a high ankle sprain suffered in the win over the Jets. Pro Bowl center Tyler Biadasz suffered a hamstring strain in Thursday's practice, and multi-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith was active but did not start because of a knee injury that popped up on Saturday.
As a result, the Cowboys had two offensive linemen making their first career starts, T.J. Bass (right guard) and Brock Hoffman (center). Chuma Edoga started at left tackle, while left guard Tyler Smith made his season debut after missing the first two games with a hamstring strain.
Despite the remade offensive line, the Cowboys still managed to put up 416 yards and gain 26 first downs. But for the second straight week, they struggled inside the opponent's 20, scoring just once in five strips after scoring just two touchdowns in six trips against the Jets.
Their final drive ended with Prescott getting picked off in the end zone.
"We thought we had a great opportunity to come in here even with the adversity and get a win, and we didn't," Prescott said. "Obviously, every week you've got to reset, you've got to refocus, and honestly, it's a little bit easier after a loss."
The Cowboys host the New England Patriots at AT&T Stadium next week, marking the return of Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys' third all-time leading rusher. Elliott ran for 80 yards on 16 carries in the Patriots' 15-10 win against the Jets and New England ran it 40 times for 157 yards.
After the Cowboys did not allow a rush of more than 18 yards in the first two games, the Cardinals had four runs of at least 20 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown by Rondale Moore.
"They were going to test the middle of our run defense," coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's something we've got to get better at or it's going to continue to be a challenge."
For the third time with McCarthy as head coach, the Cowboys had a game with at least 15 penalties and they have lost all three. They entered the game with 11 penalties for 73 yards through two games.
Those first two games seemed a long time ago on Sunday.
"The reality of where we are is we're 2-1," McCarthy said. "We're going to fully expect every week to win, so I mean, obviously, we're disappointed. We're disappointed that we're leaving here without a win. But this is part of the journey. It's part of the humbling component of the National Football League. So every experience gives you an opportunity for growth, so we need to grow from this experience."